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This month, we sat down with photographer Matti Varga, celebrated for creating unique compositions and soothing atmospheres in her work, transporting viewers into a dreamlike world drenched in nostalgia.

Hi Matti, please introduce yourself and tell us about your background and work.

I graduated in Photography from Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in 2016, and I’ve been working as a freelance photographer since. I love to travel, and when I’m not exploring or working with a mix of international and Hungarian clients abroad, I’m based in Budapest.

I spend my days working hard, and I'm in the very fortunate position that most of my clients reach out to me based on my visual perspective and the way I see things. Usually, I’ll do a personal project or a series, which gains attention online and with it, new clients. During the quarantine period I did a lot of still lifes for my own pleasure, and subsequently, I was approached by brands who wanted me to use the same approach for their projects. Often my role is to create a mood which captures the brand’s philosophy, rather than taking photos of a product alone. That's one area of my work, while the other revolves around architecture. I've been lucky enough to work with a number of architecture firms and interior designers, which I really enjoy.

What does your average day look like?

No two of my days are the same, and my schedule often depends on what stage a project is at. Generally, I get up at around 8am, drink a cup of coffee—I can’t start my day without it—and then the mornings are spent with admin, e-mails, or preparing for projects, which means making concept plans, location scouting, and doing research. If a project has already been completed then I’ll spend the afternoon in meetings and video calls with clients, I like to focus on retouching in the evenings at home.

What characteristics make your photographs recognisable?

I’d like to think that my work does have very characteristic traits, and that’s because I place a lot of emphasis on color, light and composition. You could even say I'm a bit obsessive, but for me a straight line has to be straight, and I don't take a picture until I feel everything is in perfect harmony. There's unity in all my images—my aim is to have a consistent body of work. People also say that my photographs have a sense of calm, a nostalgic, surreal, dreamlike feeling and so on, although I feel that there’s been a slight shift in my work recently. I like to take everyday objects or things I see out of context and place them in new surroundings for an unusual twist. When it comes to architecture, I’m a fan of modernism, and I’m keen on photographing buildings.

How do you spend your time outside of work?  

Photography takes up so much of my time, and is a source of happiness, so everything else I do just complements it. Whenever I can, I visit Lake Balaton. I was born in its vicinity, so I also visit my family and spend time in water and nature. A new hobby of mine is bodyART, I go to classes twice a week. After many years spent searching, I feel like I’ve finally found my sport!


On the topic of travel, are there any places that you’re drawn to, or you feel the urge to go back to? 

When it comes to trips, I have my favorite architects, and their dream buildings are what I like to visit and photograph, so that’s always a good reference point for planning holidays. Otherwise, the Mediterranean, or wherever it's warm and sunny, is always great. Spain, and Mallorca in particular, is close to my heart. Cold and rainy weather is not my thing.

Headscarf - I wear headscarfs a lot because my hair is often messy, and when I'm taking photos it can be a problem. It's annoying when my hair gets in the way of my view. This piece is such a lifesaver, and it's a great way to dress up any outfit.

Lip Balm - I always keep it with me as my lips dry out quickly, staying moisturized is key.

Keychains - There are two keychains I’m very fond of. One of them represents the Siófok Water Tower, and I bought it back when I was living in London and visiting home for a short time. In normal circumstances I wouldn’t buy a keychain representing my hometown, but I wanted to have something with me wherever I go that reminds me of home. The little wooden keychain is from a small street vendor in Balatonszárszó from an old man who carved it in his workshop.

Necklace - It’s a secondhand piece. I love freshwater pearls and I bought it at a little store with flea market vibes.

Diary - I always take it with me whenever I go to client meetings. I’m not that keen on digital diaries or calendars, but sometimes when I have online meetings they can be useful, but I still prefer writing things down by hand. 

Analogue Camera - This was a present from my friend Ali for my 30th birthday. It's practical and lightweight, I take it with me on trips, when I’m with friends, or to family events.

YKRA SIDE POUCH - This bag holds everything I need and comes everywhere with me. When I go traveling it’s the perfect fit for my passport, mask, disinfectant and lip balm. It's been to a lot of places, from Balaton, Rome and Mallorca, to Morocco, and on all the airlines I’ve flown with, none of them counted it as a separate bag. It was a gift from my sister.

Sunglasses - My eyes are super sensitive eyes, so I usually wear sunglasses in the winter and the summer. The case belonged to a friend of mine's grandparents', it's a long story, but the point is that it's also secondhand, so to speak.

Pebbles - I'm a pebble lover and collector, and wherever I go, say I'm traveling or hiking, I always keep an eye out for a pebble to find. I like pebbles with a smooth surface or a special shape and I often keep them in my pocket or in my bag because they’re simply nice to touch. These ones are from Croatia, Italy, and I’m sure at least one of them is from the Danube coast. We have a tradition between my siblings that if one of us goes traveling separately from the rest of us, they’ll bring back a pebble as a gift.

I also like making sculptural compositions from pebbles. Each one has its own place and they fit together so well. I think it's nice that they're from completely different countries and places, yet somehow the water and weather eroded them and shaped them to complement each other. It’s like this is how they were always meant to be.

photos by Botond Wertán

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